Kola NGO receives warning

Kola Environmental Center in Murmansk region is not going to register as a "foreign agent". Photo: Kola Environmental Center.

Russian NGOs like the Kola Environmental Center keep providing its documents to prosecutors’ revision trying to avoid the “foreign agent” stamp.


Majority of environmental NGOs of Murmansk region had to provide a pile of documents and answer many questions on its activity and funding.

“After we had provided the prosecutor’s office with all the required documents, we received an official warning”, says Elena Kruglikova from Kola Environmental Center in Apatity to BarentsObserver.

The warning says the NGO had funding from abroad, so if it is going to participate in any decision making process of political bodies or tries to form public opinion, it will have to register as a “foreign agent” before conducting such activity.

Agora Human Rights Association is forced to register as a “foreign agent,” on the grounds that the organization is engaged in political activity. The prosecutors believe that the provision of legal assistance to “political activists” who have fallen foul of the law (in which Agora is actively engaged) is equivalent to participation in political events.

The NGO could face a fine of up to 500,000 rubles (€12,500) and closure. Agora’s director, Pavel Chikov, says that the prosecutors’ claims have no basis, and the organization has never sought to hide its sources of funding.

“We were told that we are engaged in political activity, which is not true. With the kind of willful interpretation of the law which is typical of this body, the prosecutors have said that giving free legal advice to civic activists – something for which Agora is well known – constitutes political activity”, he says to BBC .

Earlier the Russian Ministry of Justice declared illegal a decision of “Golos” NGO not to register as a “foreign agent”. Court agreed with the Ministry of Justice decision, and resolved to mulct the NGO a 300,000 rubles (€ 7,500) and its director a 100,000 (€ 2,500). The NGO applies to a higher court of appeal.

“If this doesn’t help, we will appeal to the Constitutional court, but we will not register as “foreign agents”, says a lawyer of “Golos” Ramil Akhmetgaliev to Novaya Gazeta.

If the higher court of appeal confirms the verdict, it will create a precedent. In spite of no foreign funding for “Golos” and no political activity, the NGO will have to register as a “foreign agent”.

Environmental NGOs are also in the risk zone – majority of them all around the country have to visit prosecutors’ offices with piles of documents, though according to the “foreign agent” law, nature protection activity is equal to a political one.

“Now they read the law in a different way. If an NGO protects plant and animal life, let’s say planting or growing something, then it’s not a political activity. But if it says about illegal logging, then it’s forming of public opinion”, says director of WWF Russia Igor Chestin.

According to Chestin, registration as a ‘foreign agent” is equal to suicide for NGOs. It means not only providing endless amount of papers, but also having annual obligatory expensive audit and other financial expenses. Most of NGOs don’t have so much money.